By Ginna Parsons
NEW ALBANY – Every morning, Michele Smith gets up at 4 o’clock, goes into her crafting room and sits down to create beautiful handmade cards to send to people she’ll never meet.
Smith is part of Operation Write Home, a nonprofit organization that supports the nation’s armed forces by sending them blank handmade greeting cards to write home on, as well as cards of gratitude to encourage them.
OWH was started by Sandy Allnook of Washington state in 2007. According to the website operationwritehome.org, more than 2.3 million cards have been “deployed” since 2007.
“For some family members, this may be the last correspondence they ever receive from that soldier,” said Smith, a regional purchasing agent for Sims Metal Management in New Albany.
Smith found out about OWH about a year ago and fell in love with the idea of using her crafting skills to brighten someone else’s day.
“I don’t get any credit for doing this,” she said, “just self-satisfaction.”
Smith starts with heavy white cardstock, selects a card topping – solid or patterned paper – and then attaches embellishments, such as buttons, ribbons and gems. She might also attach words, like “thinking of you,” “thank you,” or “missing you” to the front of the card, but the insides always remain blank. She also encloses an envelope with each card, but no stamps – lettermail is free for soldiers to send home.
“One card can take me as little as 30 minutes or as long as three hours,” Smith said. “I may have to color an image or wait for something to dry. I may hit a roadblock and have to think about it for a minute and then come back to it.”
It’s mandatory that all the cards for the soldiers to write home on be handmade – not store-bought.
“All of my cards are individual,” Smith said. “No two are alike. I like every one to be unique. They’re doing their best for us, so I want to do my best for them.”
Smith sent her first box of cards to Allnook about six months ago. It contained 306 cards. On top of the cards, she placed a ziptop bag filled with “hero” cards – cards containing words of gratitude or encouragement she made to be distributed to soldiers. Smith hand-makes all her hero cards, but they can be store-bought.
“Some people there don’t get any mail from family, so it’s really important to do hero cards,” she said, adding that Sunday school groups, schoolchildren and Scouts are prime candidates to make hero cards.
Smith is now working on her second box, which she’ll send to Allnook on Oct. 25. Either type of card can be sent any time of the year, but right now the organization is concentrating on getting cards to the armed forces so they can write on them and send them back home in time for the holidays.
Thousands of people from all over the country make the blank greeting cards and hero cards and ship them to Allnook, who, along with other volunteers, sorts, repackages and ships the boxes overseas. Once soldiers receive the blank cards, they’ll add their sentiments and mail them home to loved ones.
“The first cards I made were awful,” said Smith, who said she believes she’s the only person in Mississippi involved with OWH. “I’ve learned so much on how to improve the quality. I’d love to get some local people together once a month to make cards and share ideas.”
To learn more about Operation Write Home, send email to Smith at email@example.com or visit operationwritehome.com.